By Steve Keating
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) – Sweden beat South Korea 8-3 to claim their third women’s curling gold medal in four Winter Games on Sunday, ending the ‘Garlic Girls’ fairytale Olympic run that captivated the home nation.
While Sweden confirmed their status as the dominant force in women’s curling, Korea’s silver marked a major Asian breakthrough in the sport with two teams on the podium after Japan defeated Britain on Saturday to take the bronze.
The only previous Asian team to win an Olympic medal were China’s women, who won bronze at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
“Just thinking about the journey it makes me almost want to cry,” said Sweden skip Anna Hasselborg “In 2015 we had this team together every single day since then we have worked so hard to reach this game
“Team Kim has really worked well and worked hard for the last couple of years and we have a lot of respect in that team.
“People ask if I’m surprised of them being in the final game, I was not surprised at all they played better and better.
“The Asian teams had strong performances here. It’s good for the curling sport.”
With a Swedish rink in the final for the fourth consecutive Olympics, Hasselborg’s team played with cool confidence while the charismatic Korean four from a small garlic-growing county who had been thrust into the global spotlight, seemed to finally wilt under the immense pressure.
“It’s an honor for us to win South Korea’s first silver medal and we have faced many struggles to come this far,” said Korean skip Kim Eun-jung.
“Today Sweden showed a really perfect game and great shots enough to go to the top place.
“I even thought whether I should change my name to Kim Geum-jung from Kim Eun-jung because we’ve lost several times in the finals.”
Eun means silver in Korean and Geum means gold.
One of four golds to be decided on the final day, Korean fans packed the Gangneung Curling Centre and began with a roar when the ‘Garlic Girls’ scored the first point but the mood slowly soured as Sweden took control.
The Swedes hit back in the third scoring twice on a last stone draw from Hasselborg that triggered groans from the crowd.
In the fourth end with Sweden lying shot rock, Korea skip Kim Eun-jung attempted a raised take out that backfired and allowed the Swedes to steal a point.
There was more trouble in the fifth for Korea when Kim Eun-jung failed to take out two Sweden stones leaving one for another steal.
Korea scored one in the sixth but handed the hammer back to Sweden, who put the match out of reach the next end with a three to surge ahead 7-2.
Korea got one back in the eighth but when Sweden answered with a single in the ninth the Koreans huddled and after a brief discussion walked over and shook hands.
They then lined up turned and bowed before leaving the ice to a standing ovation in tears.
(Additional reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)